Kees Hendrickx

Recording Artist / Producer

Peru part 1 : Lima, Paracas, Nasca, Arequipa and Cusco

Santiago to Lima   Airplane journey

We had to get a flight to Lima from Santiago in Chile and it was fairly uneventful. We got to Lima around 8 o clock in the evening. Before flying we received an email from our Hostel advising us not to trust or talk to any taxi drivers, “Do not talk to anyone because they will rob you” was more more or less what they told us. Nice. We were obviously a little cautious when landing at Lima. The hostel organized a pickup from the airport but failed to let us know what the person would look like and if they would be holding a sign. We did see loads of people holding signs but none for us so we had to venture out in to the dark world of the Peru’s airport taxi drivers.

The first guy we met had a little bit of english and liked the fact that I had a guitar, Mr Music Man he called me, he seemed pretty genuine. We took his taxi to our hostel which was around 30 minutes away. The first thing I noticed in Lima was the amount of City buses. These are little mini buses that are crammed full of people, on our way to the hostel I must have seen at least 5 different bus companies providing these buses. They all zig zag through traffic and are super aggressive in trying to pick up passengers. Shouting and pulling people in to get them away from the competition. Madness. The reason there is so many of them is because Peru has no regulations on public transport. Anyone can set up a bus company or drive a taxi. This is why it is so dangerous to get taxis here. To become a taxi driver all they need to do is get a taxi sticker and stick it on their car and off they go. Kidnappers R Us. The second thing I noticed about Lima was that it is a total shit hole, seedy and poor areas everywhere in the centre with dodgy gangs sitting around on corner benches. Luckily we were not staying in the centre.


Our hostel was fairly basic and a Faulty Towers ‘Manuel” type of man was working on the front desk. No english and not a clue what room we were supposed to be in. Eventually he found a key for a room and showed us in. Since we were only staying one day in Lima we decided just to explore the Mirafores area. This is the largest suburb of Lima and also the most civilised and safe by the look of the rest of Lima. We walked around and found a big area with tourist shops and art galleries. Some very cool stuff. We took a walk to the cliff side which over looks the beach that was full of surfers. Lima is known as the cloudy city and it certainly did not dissapoint, it was very cloudy most of the day until we took a tour of an old ruin in the city. This was a huge pyramid used by pre Incan people of Lima in 400BC. They also had a peruvian hairless dog walking around the ruin, a very strange breed of dog, no hair what so ever. He was really friendly though, a right poser. By this time the sun had come out and it was scorching so after the tour we walked back to the hostel. That night we went to the cinema on the cliff face of Miraflores. The film we saw was Taken 2 starring Liam Neeson, it was entertaining but pretty shit. At least they had the spanish in subtitles and had not dubbed the film like they seem to do with everything on tv. Bruce Willis talking to Samuel L Jackson in spanish just does not work for me. That night I didnt get much sleep because of the traffic outside. The taxi drivers have this really annoying habit of beeping their horns at everyone they see who they think might need a taxi, even if you’re across the street from them they’ll beep and beep. That night they kept beeping their horns all night long. At one stage, in my sleep deprived state, I swear I could hear them playing a symphony. An orchestra of cars, now thats an idea.


The next day we got a taxi to the bus station. In most South American countries every bus company has its own bus station so there are loads of different bus stations scattered around every city. This can get very confusing and you can never say “estación de autobuses, por favor” because you could end up at any bus station, anywhere. This taxi ride was the usual near death experience weve grown accustomed to here. We have definately made enough use of the “Oh Jesus” handle above every door in their cars. Its a given that the seatbelts either don’t work or are missing altogether. The bus station was guarded by loads of security and had these huge metal gates that would open when a bus came in. This was a pretty fancy bus company, we even had to check in our bags like you would at the airport. Aboard the bus they showed us a safety video showing all the emergency exits like a plane, very weird.

Lima to Paracas – 3 hour bus journey. (listening to Paul McCartney – Band On The Run, The Left Banke – The Left Banke)


Lima to Paracas was an interesting journey. Our first glimpse of real Peru, and wasn’t very nice. The people really live in squalor here. The transition from city to slum happens so quickly its ridiculous. Huts made out of straw, half built houses with plastic over them and the usual metal shacks litter the country side. We were first going to stay in a place called Pisco, a big city near Paracas but luckily we decided to stay in small Paracas because it was closer to the islands “Isla Belistas” that we wanted to visit. “The poor man’s Galapagos” the islands are nicknamed. Pisco was nearly totally destroyed in an earthquake in 2010 and now has become one of the most dangerous places in South America. The bus didnt even go into the centre to drop people off. Paracas however, is a small friendy coastal town. The town is one street where there were 2 shops and a few hostels and bars. Our hostel manager Alberto had warned us in an email that there are 3 hostels on the main street with the same name : Backpacker House, and if you walk into the wrong one they will pretend that you are in the right place and book you in! Luckily he had given us a very detailed directions to the hostel to make sure we ended up at his hostel. Sure enough we passed a hostel with the exact same name and another located right next door to our “real” hostel. Crazy stuff really! Alberto was a friendly old fellow who also ran tours to the islands which we gladly booked with him.


We got up to be ready at 8 o clock in the morning. Tourists are only allowed to visit these islands in the morning so we got to the dock and there were hundreds of people cueing up for the speed boats that would take you to the islands. The best thing about the docks were the huge Pelicans roaming the beach and footpath. They were Peruvian Pelicans and had beautiful colours aound their beak and head. They have become my favourite bird now, after the elusive Toucan of course, who I yet have to see. The way the Pelicans catch fish is really amazing, they fly low over the water and if they spot something in the water, they tuck their wings into their sides and dive beak first into the water like a spear. Amazing to watch. On the way to the islands we saw some dolphins and massive jellyfish that I would not want to meet swimming. Once we got to the islands what we saw was unreal. So many birds, penguins, pelicans, red footed boobies, weird looking seagulls and sea lions and seals. All living together in such close proximity to each other. Something like this you do not see very often. I can only imagine what the Galapagos islands must be like.

Click on the photos to get full size

In the afternoon we took a tour to the national park which is just a desert really. First time I’ve ever seen a park like this. The main export in Peru is salt and this was at one time the biggest salt producing place here. The road which at first glance looks like a normal, albeit bumpy asphalt road, is actually made entirely out of pure salt. The black colour comes from the tires that have passed over it over time. The tour took us to the famous Red beach on which the sand is as red as a terracotta pot, foxy as Susan would say. Then the tour took us to a local restaurant. The usual South American “I recommend this restaurant, they give you a special deal because you’re on this tour” malarky. Needless to say we had fallen for this before and had known to bring our own lunch with us this time. Ham sandwiches, always good. The restaurant was in a tiny village where obviously they survived on fishing and mostly tourists. Once again Pelicans seemed to have taken this place over too. As we were walking back to the bus, I was looking at something and walked straight into one of these massive Pelicans, luckily the Pelican just looked at me as if to say “watch where you’re walking Gringo”.


That evening we went to the local store, 1 of 2 in the whole place, to get some bits and pieces. We got some ham, bread, eggs and beer, the essentials. There were no prices on anything of course and when we went up to pay, the guy behind the counter began adding everything up. “Eggs, Ehm… 3 Soles, Ham Ehm… 5 Soles” randomly plucking prices out of the air. We just stood and laughed because it was so obvious. To be fair it was still dirt cheap but there is definately one price for the tourists and another for the locals. The main mode of transport in Paracas seems to be these little Tuk-Tuk type 3 wheeled cars. They cover them in stickers of Batman, X-men and anything else to make them look souped up. Spoilers and all. They look so funny. All day and most of the night they drive around beeping their horns at tourists to see if they need a taxi. Its ridiculous because there is only one road in Paracas so they just drive up and down the same road all day long. Paracas is pretty isolated so there are no ATM machines here. Susan and I ran out of money, so on the last night, with nowhere to get money, we needed to get dinner and had to find a very cheap restaurant. We found a small dodgy lookig place that had a day menu for 15 Soles, it consisted of a starter which was Ceviche, a peruvian fish dish which essentially is just raw fish marinated in lemon juice. For the main menu I chose sea food with rice and some sauce, Susan chose the grilled fish with rice. The sea food dish I chose came out with massive prawns and other weird sea food things most of which were raw. I didnt eat much of it. Susans fish came out with its head and tail still attached, even the eyes were still in it! It looked delicious. We were to feel the effects of this meal for a few weeks to come.


Paracas to Nasca – 4 hour bus journey listening to Sigur Ros – Takk, Med Sud i Eyrum, ()

We thought this journey was only 2 hours but it turned out to be 4. 4 hours going through almost entirely desert. If you break down out here you’re pretty screwed. I used to always listen to Sigure Ros when I travelled on the train from Breda to Rotterdam in Holland, it always made the journey fly by. Luckily it worked for this one too. As I looked across the dessert while Fojovoli was playing I though about how amazing it is that there are so many different types of landscapes on this continent. Europe is pretty boring compared to this continent.

We arrived in Nasca in the evening at around 5. Nasca is another one of those towns that people only visit for one reason : the Nasca lines. Straight as you come off the bus you are attacked by locals trying to take you to hostels. Of course whatever hostel you have booked is bad and the people running it are evil and you need to come with them to their amazing hostel with massive swimming pools and widescreen tv’s. We quickly avoided these and got a taxi outside the bus station to our hostel. It was called hostel Brabant, so of course I expected a tall dutch person to be sitting behind the reception desk. What we got instead was a young Nascaaen who spoke feck all english never mind dutch. The room we got there was a dirty double with a cold shower and no swimming pool to be seen anywhere, maybe we should have listened to those guys at the bus station. We went out for dinner that evening on the main street where Susan got a lovely steak and I got some nice uncooked chicken, yum.

We decided to do the only thing there is to do in Nasca. At 11 o clock in the morning we got a car to the small airport to fly over the Nasca lines. We were joined by a dutch couple, Dennis and Roos from Amsterdam. Our taxi driver was this huge Peruvian with a fetish for Disney films. The whole dashboard of the car was full of small figurines and stickers of Toy Story, Cars and other Disney classics. A bit weird to say the least.

The airport is a tiny building with loads of tour companies selling the same tour over the famous lines. I can’t remember our tour companies name but we had to wait 2 hours before we could fly. Everyone there seemed to be waiting so it was pretty normal. Weird thing is, there is absolutely nothing to do at this airport. No restaurants or bars, just a small shop with a tempremental lady who didn’t want to do much work. You would think someone build a restaurant there. They would clean up since the flights are never on time and people need to eat.


Once we finally got to board our tiny plane it was around 2 o clock. Surprisingly the plance felt pretty sturdy and taking off was fine. Once up in the air, our co-pilot would turn around and shout and point at where the lines were. These were actually very hard to spot. I expected them to be alot bigger but they are amazing. There is still hardly any information about these lines and what their actual purpose was. Archaeologists and academics all have different theories, from astrological mappings of the sky to alien landing sites. No one is really sure what they were made for. I still remember the first time I saw these lines in a dutch comic book called Suske en Wiske : De Tamme Tumi. A story in which they go to Peru to solve a mystery or something. This comic is one of the main reasons I wanted to come to Peru. Looking back now, these comics were actually very educational and alot better than the Dandy and Beano (which I also read).

The flight lasted around 20 minutes which is pretty short but after the plane banked left and then right for the so many-eth time I was about to throw up. I did my best to hold it in, luckily I managed to keep it together and we landed safely all feeling a little worse for wear. Except Dennis who straight away suggested we go for something eat. Causing us all to nearly vomit.


After we got back to our hostel we did end up going for dinner with Dennis and Roos. We had until 9 that evening to wait for the night bus to Arequipa. We chilled out for the rest of the evening and found out that Dennis and Roos are actually doing the Inca trail with the same trail company and on the same date! Mad.

Nasca to Arequipa – 10 hour Nightbus (listening to The Article, Alice In Chains – Black Gives Way To Blue, Boudewijn De Groot – Best of )

We arrived early in Arequipa the next morning and since we were so early we needed to wait until we could check in to our hotel. The hotel was a lovely old style building with a massive courtyard garden in the middle of it. Since we had to wait we decided to explore a bit of the city. I had no idea what there was to do in Arequipa except for seeing the famous Ice Princess ‘Juanita’. Juanita is a perfectly preserved human sacrifice of a 15 year old girl who was sacrificed on the top of the volcano ‘El Misti’ by the Incan people of Arequipa. It is believed she was sacrificed 500 years ago and buried in the mountain, the body was then found after an eruption caused the tomb where she was buried to open and she rolled into mouth of the crater of the volcano. The freezing temperature on the volcano caused the body to freeze and kept it in almost perfect condition. The Incas believed that making human sacrifices on the highest mountain in the town region would give them protection from the Gods and also the Gods would be pleased and grant them a good harvest for that year. Juanita was not the only child sacrifice found on that mountain but she is the best preserved. Our first stop in the city was to this museum.


The museum was full of interesting Inca and tribal artefacts. Every tribe still had their own traditions which the Incas never tried to change when they took over all their lands. Instead the Incas studied every tribe and then took whatever methods they found useful and applied them to the Inca people. They also showed the tribes their own methods of farming, building and teaching. This way the tribes were glad to join with the Incas because it improved their lives. The museum was centered around Juanita and it had many sacrificial clothes, items and drawings. The main exhibit was of course the big freezer in which Juanita was displayed. It was very impressive and a little freaky. She still has her skin, teeth and nails, which is absolutely amazing since she’s 500 years old!

After the museum we took a walk up to the main square with a fountain in the middle of it. We took one of the side streets to find an old monastery and came across a big demonstration outside a political building. There must have been over 100 people holding banners and shouting things. Of course, we don’t know what the demonstration was about so we nicely avoided going through the crowd and took another street. In guide books they advise you to avoid large crowds and demonstration as they can get out of control in a matter of seconds, this looked like it could be one of those situations so we didn’t go near it. The monastery was very close but it was way to expensive to visit and both of us weren’t too bothered really.

As we walked back to our hotel we could hear the song ‘Under The Sea’ from the Little Mermaid being played instrumentally on the street. We couldn’t make out where it came from and I expected it to be playing from an ice cream van. Instead we turned the corner only to a garbage collecting truck playing it very loudly over a speaker as he was driving along picking up rubbish. Turns out that all the garbage trucks in this city play instrumental music as they are working. So strange yet really cool. I would love to see a garbage truck blast out the Circle Of Life as it drives around Cork City.

In the garden of our hotel here lived a large turtle. He was named Paco and was a very friendly fellow. He would slowly follow you around looking for things to eat, I think he was fairly spoiled because Susan gave him a piece of orange and he wouldn’t even eat it. Picky bugger. We went to bed early that night because we had to get up at 2:45am to be collected at 3am. We had booked a tour to Colca Canyon to see the deepest canyon in the world and the large Andean Condor that nest there. On a good day you can see 100’s of them flying around. The best time to see them is between 8 and 9 in the morning and so we had to get up early to make a 5 hour drive to the canyon. The drive was fairly shit to say the least. Once we got to the canyon, we made a short half hour hike up to the main viewing platform which was 4,160 metres above sea level, and you could really feel the altitude kick in. Our guide told us there is a small village at the bottom of the canyon and the children from the village need to walk 3 hours to school and another 3 hours back everyday! We could barely see the village from our viewpoint. No wonder many of the children leave school early and just work at home or in their village. unfortunately it was one of those days when the Condors were not around. We did see 3 flying about so at least did get to see them. They are amazing creatures, so big. I would love to see a large group of them flying overhead.


On the way back we visited a small village of the Collagua people. They were selling the usual tourist stuff and had cool Eagles and Llammas to take pictures with. They just stand on the street all day waiting for tourists to come along and take pictures with them. As we were boarding the bus a (we suspect) special needs man was standing holding his palm out for money, the poor fellow didn’t have a chance of anyone giving him money and thinking about it now its very sad. They definately don’t have any facilities in that village to care for someone with special needs. Hopefully they don’t treat him as an outcast. As we drove further back, the scenery got even more amazing at every turn. The terraces that the Incas built for farming are still used here today and look unreal, almost like looking at a painting. We stopped at many points to take loads of pictures and at each stop there were locals selling stuff. Always the same things, Alpaca this, Alpaca that, everything is made with Alpaca wool (Alpaca is a type of Llama by the way).


After the village we stopped at a restaurant recommended by the tour and Susan and I went to the shop and got sandwiches for 1 euro or something. On the way back to Arequipa we drove across the highest mountain in the region, at 5,200 metres. I felt very lightheaded when we stopped there and could not have stayed there too long. Our guide showed us that the local people there hike to this point and place stones on top of each other, largest to smallest and wish for things. Simple things like a car, money, or even health. Piles of these stones can be seen all over Peru and Bolivia.


We got back to Arequipa at around 4 or 5 and we went for dinner in one of the restaurants on the main square, as we were having dinner, 2 musicians came and played for everyone in the restaurant. This can be a very annoying thing but this time they were two very talented fellows. One played guitar and pan flute and the other a drum. The guitar player had a great strumming technique that I am still trying to copy but will never be able to pull off to his level.

The next day we did nothing. Susan was feeling the effect of that fishy meal in Paracas so we lazed around and waited to get our bus in the evening. We got the hotel to organise a taxi to the bus station. Our bus was at 8 and we asked the taxi to come at 7 just to be safe. it was a good thing we did go early because it was really busy on the streets and there was a traffic jam to get onto the freeway. We had to turn around and go through estates and other shortcuts to get to the bus station. Upon entering the taxi I had stupidly said “bus station please” (in my fluent spanish). The driver looked at me confused and said something that I could not understand so I just said “Si”, the usual comeback to something you don’t understand in South America. I think what happened is the Hotel told him where to go but then I confused him and we ended up at the wrong bus station. We took our bags and looked for our bus companies desk. Once we found it and showed our tickets the woman there got all worried and started shouting. She was saying “Rapido, Vamos, Quick, Quick” and kept pointing out the door. Susan and I just looked at each other and ran out the door, once outside there were no signs or taxis and we had no idea where to go. We knew we had to be in a different bus station but had no idea where it was. Luckily a man came up to us and we asked him where the other bus station was, he pointed across the road and voila, there is was. It wasn’t even 2 minutes from the other station. We still don’t understand why the woman went all hysterical on us. At least we made it on time and were on our way to Cusco.

Arequipa to Cusco – 10 hour Nightbus Listening to – Time Is A Thief – We’re Not Strangers, O Emperor – Hither Thither, Ladydoll – The Knife Thrower and His Wife, Belle & Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress

The nightbus to Cusco took a little longer than expected. I usually don’t get much sleep on nightbuses and this one was one of the bumpiest and uncomfortable so far. At one stage I felt I was lifted out of my seat and up against the window. The bus took us over many mountains and it was probably a good thing we couldn’t see what kind of roads we we’re driving on. At one stage we were stopped for at least 30 minutes with no explanation why. After we got to Cusco we found out there was an accident on the road over one of the mountain passes and we had to take a different route. This gave us an extra hour or so on the bus. Once it got light and I looked outside I came across a totally different landscape once again, it gets so much greener and there are a lot of little farms scattering the countryside.

Cusco was the Incan capital and they are very proud of this fact with a huge statue of the Last Inca king standing proudly as you drive into the city. The outskirts of the city are the usual shanty town looking buildings with loads of people standing and sitting around doing nothing. We were dropped of just outside the city at the bus companies terminal and got a taxi to our hostel. I had the job of booking this hostel, I must admit that Susan booked every single hostel in South America and she asked me to book this one. Of course this was the one hostel that was booked on the wrong date! I can’t even book a hostel! Doh. We went to the reception of the hostel and she informed us that the booking we made was for the next day. Luckily we were able to move the booking to the day we arrived and no harm was done except to my ego.  The hostel however was shocking! The door was a slide one that had to be brutally forced open and had no proper lock on it. The toilet stank and the top of the bedroom was open so the stink lingered into the whole room. Lovely. Luckily we only had to stay one night because we were off the the Amazon jungle the next day. We were pretty wrecked from the nightbus so we took a very short stroll through cusco then slept and relaxed for the rest of the day. The next day we were off to the Amazon jungle.